Extreme weather

We are experiencing some extreme weather at the moment with heavy rain causing flooding in some places like Timaru. Only a week ago, heavy snowfalls closed roads in both the North and South Islands. Strong winds stopped the Cook Strait ferries from sailing between the North and South Islands.

NIWA, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, has records of our coldest temperatures and highest rainfall. The coldest temperature, –25.6 degrees Celsius, was recorded on July 17th 1903 in Ranfurly, Central Otago. Of course, temperature recordings made more than 100 years ago may not have been so accurate but the newspapers had stories of the extreme cold and ice. So this year doesn’t seem so bad, when July minimum temperatures in Ranfurly have been around 1 or 2 degrees above zero.

In contrast, the hottest day in New Zealand was in Rangiora, just north of Christchurch, on February 7th 1973, when the temperature reached 42.4 degrees.

The record for the highest rainfall is 16,617mm (or just over 16 metres) for the year 1995 in an area on the West Coast, inland from Hokitika, near the mountains. The lowest rainfall for the year was 212mm, in Alexandra, Central Otago. This was in 1964.


• extreme (adj, n) – greatest distance from the middle point; highest or lowest
• NIWA – a government organisation which is does scientific work concerning water and atmosphere